ABC Cinema in Wakefield to be bulldozed, planners confirm

The curtain will finally fall on Wakefield's former city-centre cinema after planners gave approval for it be bulldozed, despite dozens of objections.

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 2:10 pm
The ABC on Kirkgate.

The old ABC on Kirkgate has been at the centre of numerous redevelopment plans but has stood derelict for more than two decades.

Last month Wakefield Council who acquired the building last year after a series of private owners, took the decision to apply for demolition, which has now been granted.

But the move was not well received with more than 50 letters of objection, including a lengthy letter submitted by the London-based Cinema Theatre Association.

They wrote: "It is clear that even though Wakefield Council owns the freehold of the cinema, it has no interest in exploring its potential re-use."

They say the building has "considerable architectural quality", and accuses the council of failing to fully investigate its potential uses.

The letter continues: " Demolition would remove the possibility of reusing all or part of the cinema building for public benefit, such as community use, conference or live performance space. Once lost this kind of floor space is almost impossible to replace."

They added that the council should consider transforming the building into a conference centre, facilities that are currently lacking in the city.

The ABC in cinema in 1996, judging by the movies playing.

Another objector wrote: "Wakefield has a history of losing historic building by poor planning decisions. The demolition of this building would be an act of vandalism by the council."

One person said: "It would make an excellent concert venue if restored, something that Wakefield has sorely needed for decades", while another added: "The ABC building was, and still could be, an important and focal building in the town centre."

First opened in 1935 as the Regal Cinema, it change its name to ABC in 1962 and was sold to the Cannon Group in 1986.

After Cineworld opened a multiplex screen in 1996, the ABC shut a year later and has stood derelict since.

Plans have been proposed for the Art Deco cinema over the years with hopes it would be converted into a music venue or another leisure attraction.

But Wakefield Council said after conducting surveys on the building it would not be economically viable to restore.

Planning officers agreed that the condition of the building will continue to deteriorate and that demolition should be a priority.

They said it would take 12 weeks to complete.

Meanwhile, among the letters of objection were a handful of people supporting the demolition.

Some are simply fed up by the crumbling eyesore of what was once a thriving picture house.

One wrote: "It looks terrible, attracts undesirables to the area, full of asbestos, is rat infested and is in general a blight on area in the face of the regeneration efforts by Wakefield Council of the lower Kirkgate area to make Wakefield more attractive to visitors/investors.

"Just because some famous acts played there 60-plus years ago does not make it a building of any historical significance, so why keep looking back when we should be looking forward?"